• 73°

Vidalia accepts bids on broadband project

VIDALIA — The City of Vidalia awarded bids Thursday for the installation of the fiber optic cable that will bring high speed Internet across the Mississippi River.

During a brief meeting, the board of aldermen — led by mayor pro temp Vernon Stevens — awarded the bid for the installation of the cable on the U.S. 84 bridge to CableWorks of Baton Rouge for $322,573.44.

The second bid for the project, Grady Crawford Construction of Baton Rouge, came in at $329,550.

Vidalia City Information Technology Director Bobby Paul said he didn’t know when the work would start, but the city’s permit to work on the U.S. 84 Mississippi River bridge requires it to be done by Jan. 15.

“We will be running (the fiber optic line) under the southern bridge,” Paul said. “They’ll be working on the shoulder, but we are required to cone off half of the southernmost lane to provide a buffer for the work.”

Getting clearance for the project to use the bridge was a key hurdle the city has faced for nearly two years.

The Mississippi Department of Transportation’s usual policy is to disallow the running of utilities on structures it controls.

The department granted the city an exception last week.

According to minutes from the Mississippi Transportation’s Oct. 28 meeting, “the … rules require the city to provide justification of a hardship in writing and explain why alternative routes are not viable, which the City of Vidalia has done.”

Part of the infrastructure needed for the installation of the lines within the city limits is already housed at a small structure that used to house cell phone infrastructure at the site of the former Vidalia City Hall on North Spruce Street, Paul said.

When the future Vidalia Technology Center is built on the site — which was recently cleared with the exception of the cell phone structure — the cell phone structure will likely be incorporated into the VTC, Paul said.

The VTC is a $1.2 million project funded by a U.S. Commerce Department grant, and will house not only the broadband infrastructure but also spaces for the development of digital-market businesses.

When completed, the broadband initiative will provide Internet access at speeds of up to 1-gigabyte per second to businesses, industries and residences in the Vidalia area, officials have said.